We headed out with the Dowel Box kite since winds had been quite gusty
and fresh earlier in the day. Time to give it a real work-out, and let
out all the 150 meter (500 feet) line!
On arriving at the reserve, the wind seemed to have moderated a bit,
but gusts were still blowing through. Accordingly, we sheltered by one
corner of the toilet block in order to rig the kite.
The Dowel Box kite
is quite light for a dowel design. Hence, it's a real handful to rig out
in the open with the wind trying to bend it inside out!
It was just a short walk across the car park and onto the grassed
area. It now seemed the winds were quite light down low, making a hand
launch impossible. However, looking up, I saw puffy cumulus clouds
moving along steadily. Winds were at least 'moderate' up there!
Hopefully we could contact some of that air.
For at least the next 15 minutes, we had a succession of short
flights. All ended with gentle landings quite close by. All the line had
been wound in, trying to keep the big orange Box kite in the air. I
tended to lay out more line on each attempt, doing my 'payout winch'
imitation. That is, jogging upwind while letting line slip through my
hand to keep a constant tension in the line.
The Dowel Box kite towed up nicely, but there just wasn't enough wind speed even at 50 feet.
Finally, a long tow and a handy period of slightly fresher wind
got the Box kite away. I was quite surprised at how little wind it
needed, considering no space-age materials were used. The Dowel Box kite
seems quite happy in the lower reaches of the 'moderate' wind range.
Soon the kite was flying high and beautifully stable at between 100 and 250 feet.
The flying angle and line tension rose and fell smoothly with
small changes in the wind strength. On a couple of occasions, the kite
drifted right down close to the ground, forcing me to quick pull in
line. Each time this happened, I managed to find faster air before
running out of line, and was able to climb the kite back out to 90
meters (300 feet) of line.
Well, so far so good, so it wasn't long before I let the black
tag appear on the taut flying line. 120 meters (400 feet). A few minutes
on this length passed without any dramas.
The kite seemed to sit at around 40 degrees of line angle most of
the time, with small amounts of thermal activity occasionally pushing
it up to 50 degrees. Lulls and sinking air let the kite down to around
20 degrees from time to time as well.
Around this time, a funny thing happened. A small bird, a very
small bird really, flew past the line at around 50 feet up. For half a
minute or so, it hovered and flitted about, checking out the line more
closely. Finally, it actually perched on the line! Very
carefully, I put the winder under one foot, while trying to get my
camera out of a pocket. Unfortunately, the bird must have felt the
movement in the line, and flew off. I don't know when that kind of
unusual photo op will come up again!
More time passed until finally, what the heck, why not let all
the line out? There's no way my traditional Box kite is going to go
vertical on 150 meters (500 feet) of line, is there... (The legal
altitude limit is 400 feet in Australia)
It was a pleasure sitting on a grassy knoll with 4 year old Aren
playing on the nearby play equipment and the Dowel Box kite elegantly
doing its thing at around 350 feet of altitude. Picturesque cumulus
clouds were all around, which highlighted the kite's every move.
And move it did! Suddenly, the mother of all Autumn
thermals caught the Dowel Box kite and sent it soaring higher and
higher. With heaps of tension on the line, I watched incredulously as it
passed 60 degrees, then 70. Line tension fell off momentarily. Oh,
that's it, I thought.
But no, bang, tension came right on again and the kite
finally made it to 80+ degrees! (And a technically illegal 500 feet...)
Once there, it seemed a little lost and hunted around for a while,
trying to figure out which way was 'up'. YOU HAVE GOT TO BE JOKING!
all my reading and research, bog-standard square box kites just didn't
do this. Hmmm. Actually, my design is slightly flattened, so the cells
are not exactly square. And the dowels are about as thin as possible for a practical design.
Can't wait to go out thermalling again, with my box kite...
We continued flying for at least another half an hour before
finally the wind died almost completely, bringing the kite down. It was a
great outing with the new Dowel Box kite, which definitely exceeded
The story above was an actual flying experience with the described kite.
My write-ups are definitely warts-and-all since things don't always go totally as planned. However, half the fun of kiting is anticipating the perfect flight. When it happens, it's magic!